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14-year-old Violette's family move to a suburban area classified as a difficult zone by the government. Bullied, she seeks 16-year-old Sabine's help, is drawn into her gang, and is soon swept up into physical violence.
Instantaneously, 17 Girls reminds me of the American film The Bling Ring, which centered around a group of spoiled adolescents growing up in Hollywood that would venture out at night and rob celebrity's homes, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of values. Their plans were more than just rob whomever whenever but sporadic, carefully-planned that would take place when the celebrity was out of town, judging by their Twitter feed and social networking activity.
The film was immediately criticized for being empty, somewhat superficial, and lacking any real depth, and brief searches for the Coulin sisters' (Delphine and Muriel) 17 Girls has warranted similar criticism. Let me reiterate the reason for the emptiness one more time. 17 Girls is based off another unfathomably true story, revolving around a group of teen girls who made a pact to get pregnant around the same time so they could all deliver at he same time and raise their babies together. This kind of act is empty and stupid, and the Coulin sisters make not attempt to disguise the true stupidity of what these girls did. However, they do make an attempt to justify it, and that is when we have a film.
This pact begins when seventeen-year-old Camille (Louise Grinberg) discovers she is pregnant after the condom breaks during sex with her partner. By making the choice to keep the child, despite abortion and adoption being available options, she manages to encourage her friends to also have children and get pregnant. One even resorts to getting impregnated by a twenty-four-year old homeless man.
The reason the girls give to justify their pact is their desire to be loved unconditionally and their hunger for companionship. If one were to look closely at the homelives of these girls, one would see nothing but emptiness and sadness, with no real parental guidance or dependency whatsoever. Their parents are barely around to cook and care for them let alone give them moral guidance or help them along in school or in life. The girls resort to getting pregnant as a means of being the parent they never adequately had growing up.
Make no mistake, these are shallow and narrow-minded girls and the Coulin sisters dually make note of that. The girls choose to go through with a process that is supposed to be wonderful and quite an emotionally-enriching experience and cheapen it to a spur-of-the-moment impulse that effectively robs it of any and all humanity. However, the Coulin sisters bravely try and justify why the girls did, which is the real uphill battle. Out of all the tabloid stories, the Coulin sisters picked one of the toughest to justify and humanize and the result with 17 Girls is remarkable.
I'm somewhat optimistic that one day we'll get a version of "the pregnancy pact" that tries to give an even deeper humanization of the girls involved with the pact. With 17 Girls, we're kind of at arm's length away from the story, never closing in on even one of the girls involved with this pact. However, as stated, the lack of character development only further gives these characters the vapidness they accentuated in real life by doing such an unthinkable act and cheapening what is supposed to be an intimate and massively rewarding experience. I constantly see people (myself included) complaining that movies shortchange their heroes and don't give proper justice to their own character. Here's a film that does perfect justice to its characters and their real-life personalities.
Starring: Louise Grinberg. Directed by: Delphine and Muriel Coulin.
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